Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Head, Heart, Hands

March

Head
Wanderlust.

Each spring, your mind shifts to Italy, to Roman skies, to marble mosaics, to churches and monuments. You itch to fly away, to see something exotic, to walk upon ancient roads, to breathe in air that has wound its way in and out of spaces for millenia. You check airfares. You check vacation schedules. You think in Italian, in Spanish, in the words of any other language you can conjure up, though not much remains of anything but English.

When you were thirteen, your grandparents took your sister and you to England for a summer. It was a celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary, and they let you join in. They rented a flat in Surbiton, Surrey, the upstairs of a beautiful house. It seemed palatial to you, coming from your 900 square foot post-WWII urban home. You lived upstairs from a single mother and her three boys, who must have thought you were terribly American. You suppose you were.

You navigated London and its surrounds via bus, tube, train, and foot. You don't remember many specifics about that summer other than it was formative for you. That summer indelibly printed onto the landscape of your memory the call of place. You visited cathedrals and castles, ships and museums, and within those places you encountered stories, histories, natural and man-made beauty, and traditions that all came together in a way that called to your heart.

Since that time, you spent a semester in Siena, Italy, a month backpacking through Europe with your sister, ten days on another study abroad in the Lake District and London, a week in Rome, a week in Oxford, six weeks in Seoul, South Korea, and a week each in Istanbul and Greece.

And each spring, you crave more places, more possibilities, more stories. Some springs, you get to plan an adventure. Most springs, you settle for an adventure in your backyard. But that's ok. The sky is impossibly blue today, the maple trees are tapped, and there is magic in the woods.

Heart
Anniversary

This month marks your nineteenth wedding anniversary. Soon, you will have spent more of your life having known and loved your husband than not. Each day is a gift; each year a miracle. You adore your husband, and you're so thankful you've had so many years together.

Hands 
New Spaces

Since finishing another draft of The Lady's Lot, you have reconfigured your desk arrangement. It is now: (1) clean, (2) organized, and (3) a standing desk, with optional sitting space. Hot-cha.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Changdeokgung

Never worry about the delay of your success compared to others, because construction of a palace takes more time than an ordinary building.









































Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Words

Words, words, words. Normally you would post a photo today. A photo of some place you'd been, some place you'd lived, some place you found beauty or pattern or shape or color.

But today is a day for words.

Today you will finish a draft of a third novel. It's a good novel, a funny novel. It is not finished yet, but it's getting there.

And you want to finish it, so today is a day for words.

You will sit at your desk, working in twenty-minute spurts until the bus comes delivering the gingerbread boys, and you must stop. You will sit, rewriting the ending, deleting and adding and tweaking as the snow comes down outside, swirling through the treetops, landing on pillows of snow.

And all will be well, for the end is near.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Bermuda





















"It was a great cave in the midst of a city; and what were the altars and the tinsel but the sparkling stalactites, into which you entered in a moment, and where the still atmosphere and the sombre light disposed to serious and profitable thought?"
-Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Ellis Island

“Even 
After 
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

"You owe me."

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.” 


-Hafiz

Monday, February 3, 2014

What Is on My...

...February...

Agenda
If you know me, you probably know my deep and abiding love for the most important holiday in February. It's a day that we anticipate year round at the Gingerbread House:


"Wake up, woodchuck chuckers! It's Groundhog Day!" The gingerbread boys don't share our enthusiasm, but they will someday. How can they not? BING! 

Winter has always been a very long season in the places I've lived. Not perhaps Russian-long, but long enough to suspect that there is nothing under the two feet of crusty snow but more ice. Long enough to have forgotten what sunlight feels like. Long enough to think you're bound for the same destiny as the dinosaurs. Truly there have been some years when I felt Phil Connor's words shoot like an arrow into my soul: "It's going to be cold. It's going to be grey. And it's going to last you the rest of your life." Icy slush, cold toes, leaking boots, frozen windshield wipers, runny nose, fierce wind, and the shoveling. Always the shoveling. Spring, at times, seems a lifetime away.

And there, smack dab in the middle of winter, sits an absolutely ridiculous holiday. How can anyone not appreciate the value of an ROUS seeing his shadow? 

Basement Floor
A box. A large laminate box awaiting the arrival of sixteen day-old chicks. Fifteen of them are surplus stock and will be a mix of brown-egg layers. The final one is an Easter Egger, the mutt of the chicken world who has been bred to lay colored eggs. We are hopeful that more of these chickens will stick around than our last bunch. 

And did I mention we're excited?

CHICKS!

Nightstand
I'm prepping for School Library Journal's Battle of the Books. While I have loved following along in years past, this year is a bit special, as I know three of the contenders: Julie Berry (ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME), Rita Williams-Garcia (PS BE ELEVEN), and Kathi Appelt (THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP).

I've known Julie since I was thirteen. She's one of my dearest friends, and I'm so thrilled that her work is being recognized. When Julie first began writing ALL THE TRUTH, she shared the first ten pages of it with me in a hotel room at a conference in Nashua years ago. I was immediately engaged by Judith's voice (or lack thereof), and wanted nothing more than for her to hurry and finish writing it, so I could find out what happened. I hope her novel receives some serious love during the BoB.

Rita is faculty at my alma mater, Vermont College of Fine Arts. Though I never got to work with Rita, at least I got to dance with her. The woman can dance. She's a fine writer, too. :) You can't help but fall in love with Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, just like you can't help but fall in love with Rita.

Kathi was my first advisor at Vermont College. When I read her first novel, The Underneath, I truly wanted to throw in the towel and take up chopping onions for a living. It was just so good. She is full of wisdom and compassion and graciousness and heart. And she always says to write like your fingers are on fire. She's been a true mentor to me, and her words always make my heart sing.

This year, I'm trying to read all of the books so I can have an educated opinion. I still have ten books to go!


Mind
The other night, I lay wide awake, as is often the case. Sleep does not come easy for me, and many nights find me comfortable under the down, but very awake. I lay there with thoughts firing like spark plugs. I was tired, and knew that I needed more sleep, and yet sleep simply would not come.

I tried to shut down my thoughts, tried to turn out the light, so to speak. As I was forcibly trying to shove my thoughts away, squash them down, fold them up into a compact square, make them leave, I realized I just needed to let them go. I needed to let the thoughts float up into the air like bubbles, or drift away on ripples. Let go.

It's not easy to mentally let go of things, just as it's not easy to physically let go of things. One woman I know hangs onto her possessions like they're a life raft in a hurricane. The gingerbread boy often races back to me when the bus is turning the corner, just to give me one more hug. I have a six-month's worth pile of magazines that I should just toss, but instead they sit gathering dust for that day when I'll get around to reading them. I suspect that day will never come.

And letting go of your manuscript? 

That's hard. 

I have released bits and pieces of two separate manuscripts this past month. Part of me wishes I had not been so hasty. The other part knows that sometimes, you just have to jump.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Athens

"There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination.
Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments,
cellularly, like a laborious mosaic."

-Anais Nin